2. The Wound of the Daemonic

Philokalia’, volume 3, p 35:

“Suffering deliberately embraced cannot free the soul totally from sin unless the soul is also tried in the fire of suffering that comes unchosen. For the soul [‘heart’ would be better] is like a sword: if it does not go ‘through water and fire’ [Psalm 66, 12], that is, through suffering deliberately embraced and suffering that comes unchosen– it cannot but be shattered by the winds of fortune.”

The ‘wounding by the Daemonic’ encompasses the suffering that is unchosen. It has the power to destroy not only our secular but also our religious existence: it tries us in rushing water and in a raging fire that over turns all our hopes, material and spiritual, to reforge us in some manner we cannot as yet even imagine. It requires existential trust to undergo the Daemonic wound like Job, neither attributing it to an angry, even sadistic, God who punishes us for the transgression of being alive, nor cursing God and dying in a bitterness that finds being alive ridiculous. Because the Daemonic plunges us into a hurt for which we have neither defence nor explanation, most people react with either moralism or nihilism.

We want happiness, and in a certain sense at the end we will obtain it. God created us to share in his goodness. God offered us a soul to participate in his manner of being. But, God did something else which mostly is avoided and falsified, secularly and religiously. God put his and our happiness at ultimate risk, for the sake of what the Bible calls a ‘fearful yet wonderful’ purpose; he established between himself and us a venture with no guarantee, a suffering with no protection, to ‘try’ a deep passion of God in us and make it our deep passion too. God offered us a heart to enact his deed of sacrifice.

The Daemonic wounds us to give us a heart that is human, and the Daemonic wounds us to make that humanity divine.

Hence our passion must bear two wounds, a lesser and a greater, to fulfil its calling from God. We must allow God to wreck the life we have made in the shallows, in order to plunge us into the deep: this is the small Daemonic wound. Then we must enter the real agony and ecstasy of humanity, which is to journey, battle, suffer, in the depth for our own and the world’s redeeming, despite the cost both inner and outer: this is the great Daemonic wound. Thus our passion, in its love of God, in its love of the world, is ambivalent at depth: the heart wants to assume the way of passion but it also wants to put this way down. The way of passion was hard to bear, primordially, and has grown even harder after the Fall. Yet the Fall did not eradicate it. In one sense it has given up and given in; yet in another sense it still holds out and still tries to fulfil its calling. This divided state of the deep heart of humanity, both against and for the heart of God trying to be born in it, is the contradiction at the core of the human condition. In depth, our heart is in a Koan, and on a Cross.

–HUMAN CHARITY
The smaller Daemonic wound restores us to our fuller humanity, because it sweeps away the pinched heart that looks after itself and its own, but has no wider calling to the world and to humanity. The shallow heart is inhuman because it is parochial, suburban, caring about those who care for it, but not open to stranger or enemy. It looks after its own, and guards its little patch. It has no interest in anything at stake for the world and for humanity.

–DIVINE CHARITY
The greater Daemonic wound is that situation described by the Bible: ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ This restores our humanity to divinity, a divine heart in the human heart. This is ‘the Christ.’ The human heart was created to become a Christ, and it is from this we are fallen away, and it is to this we will be restored. Only God, incarnate in humanity, and going through the Koan and Cross where we are stuck and heart broken, can help us take up what we have put down, yet still yearn to carry. The Messiah, the Christ, who is God come to assume the human condition as we humanly experience it, restores us to our deepest Daemonic wound, to redeem the whole gamble, the whole agony, by which God wants us to become the heart of existence.

What, then, of the two kinds of suffering of which the Philokalia speaks? The first voluntary suffering does not accept the Daemonic in full. Only the second unchosen suffering accepts the fullness of the Daemonic. The former burns out what is false to the heart, but only the latter really tries, and is tried in, the fire of what is true to the heart at its deepest.

The first suffering is necessary to any and all authentic religion.
The second suffering is decisive for Christianity.

In Christianity, the first must lead to the second: the suffering deliberately chosen has no other justification than to point the way to and help us with the suffering not chosen.

In Christianity, what we embrace willingly is, and must be, no more than a bridge into what we embrace only unwillingly, with severe difficulty.

This is why there are those who, involuntarily thrown into the suffering that is not chosen, are closer to the spirit of Christ than many who voluntarily suffer for Christ but will not allow the Daemonic to take them where it took him.

The Daemonic took Christ out of the ascetic desert and out of the worshipping temple into the deep place, in the heart, in the world.